This paper provides an example of the policy implications of the need to understand emic categories. As part of research commissioned by the U.S. Census Bureau, in-depth interviewing on the topic of health and mental health was conducted among Mexican and Mexican-American migrant workers in Florida. It was found that perceptions of these topics differ from the biomedical model, but are somewhat similar to the categorizations elicited from a sample of white middle class, highly educated urbanites. These results suggest that at least for this domain, standard demographic variables, such as ethnicity, level of education, language, and income seem to be less critical than is the lay/professional distinction. The biomedical categories used in survey research may be inappropriate not only for ethnic minorities, but also for the mainstream population.

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